Game 33: NIT First Round – No. 6 Harvard Crimson (18-11) at No. 3 Georgetown Hoyas (19-13)
When: Wednesday, 7pm
Series: Hoyas lead 3-0, last played in 2009-10 season
Radio: Team 980 (Rich Chvotkin)
KenPom Projection: Georgetown 77, Harvard 71 (70 percent)
Line: Hoyas -5.5, o/u 152
It’s been a longtime coming but Georgetown is back in a postseason tournament for the first time since 2015. Sure it’s not anyone’s first choice but the NIT demonstrates progress for the program while offering opportunities for both the outgoing seniors and talented freshman class alike.
Jessie Govan and Kaleb Johnson get to finally play in the postseason after Georgetown missed out entirely over the last three years. (Greg Malinowski played in the NIT as a freshman at William & Mary while Trey Mourning was on an NCAA Tournament team as a frosh.) On the other end of the spectrum James Akinjo, Mac McClung, and Josh LeBlanc will get the valuable chance to gain postseason experience that could end up serving them well in the coming seasons.
And it’s not just the player that can benefit from the NIT. After two one and done performances in the BIG EAST Tournament, coach Patrick Ewing will get another chance to pick up his first coaching victory in a tournament setting.
There’s really nothing quite like a game at McDonough unless of course it’s during the regular season against ODU (twice) or Arkansas State for example. No, seriously, Georgetown played in front of a on campus great atmosphere in both 2014 against West Virginia and in 2005 against Cal State Fulluerton. If I can offer up one bit of advice it’s to get there EARLY.
OK, let’s talk a little bit about the opponent from the Ivy League that gives this matchup the feel of an FCS game on a Saturday afternoon in October.
On the other bench is former local standout Tommy Amaker who, depending on what you believe, was in the mix for the Georgetown job before Ewing ended up coming home.
Amaker is no stranger to the NIT having won it with Michigan in 2004 and then finishing as the runner-up in 2006. The former Seton Hall coach has actually taken Harvard to the NCAA Tournament more times than the NIT. Harvard has never won an NIT game and lost another BIG EAST school last year in Marquette.
The big issue for Georgetown on Wednesday night will be defending Bryce Aiken who has scored more than 30 in two of the last three games. The Hoyas have not been great at stopping big time scorers this season – Chris Clemson, Myles Powell - and that’s just what they will have to do in order to advance past the first round. It will probably be up to Jagan Mosely to start on Aiken although Akinjo can defend well at times but it’s going to take a team effort which is something that has varied mightily over the past few weeks.
After such highs and lows for Georgetown recently, some consistency in the NIT could be a nice start to the 2019-20 season particularly if the Hoyas can string together a few wins.
HOYAS NIT HISTORY
Georgetown will be playing in the NIT for the 13th time and has a record of 15-13. The Hoyas have twice been runner’s up in 1993 and 2003. It should be noted that there is no official winner in 2003 as St. John’s had to vacate its title. This will only be Georgetown’s sixth home game in the NIT and fourth on campus. The most famous Hoyas game in this tournament has to be the 3OT affair in Charlottesville against Virginia in 2000. Georgetown came away 115-111 winners in that first round match-up but ended up losing their next game at Cal in a low scoring affair (60-49). The Hoyas faced one other Ivy team in the NIT and that was a loss at Princeton in 1999 – the year that John Thompson quit and handed everything over to Craig Esherick.
NC State beat Hofstra on Tuesday night meaning that the winner of Georgetown – Harvard will travel to Raleigh to face the Wolfpack. That game is TBD - March 21-25.
Prediction: Georgetown 84, Harvard 70 – The Hoyas will advance to the second round of the NIT just like they did in 2014 when they also had to travel to play an ACC foe.